Functional Nutrition requires that I look at food and nutrients from a much broader perspective than nonfunctional approaches. There’s far more to be understood than calories, proteins, fats, carbohydrates and defined quantities of vitamins and minerals. The functional approach assumes that food contains molecules that are necessary, purposeful and designed to support life, promote well-being and optimal health.
Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.
It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, Functional Medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional Medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, Functional Medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.
Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented toward acute care: the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as a heart attack or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that aim to treat the immediate problem or symptom.
Unfortunately, the acute-care approach to medicine is ill-equipped to address complex, chronic disease. In most cases, the model does not take into account the unique genetic makeup of each individual and does not allow time for exploring the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct influence on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society: critical environmental factors such as stress, diet, and exposure to toxins. As a result, most physicians are not adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease, nor to apply strategies such as nutrition, diet, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.